Small Business Model Series Entry #2 – Narrowing the Idea

I have decided on 10 different areas of potential business opportunities based on my limitations as described in Entry #1. Now I need to narrow this list down to a few choices and do some research. Once I’m done researching them, I can create a decision model to help me list my top three business ideas. Right now I need to list the cons for each of the 10 areas and the three with the least amount of cons, will be the ones I research.

The 10 areas I have to work with are as follows:

1.      Construction type work (no trades though because I’m not licensed), so this would include painting, sheetrock, insulation, tile, cabinetry, flooring, trim carpentry;
2.      Landscaping including arbor based work;
3.      Welding/sheet metal work, metal fabrication;
4.      Marine industry to include boat repair, motor work, electronics;
5.      Auto mechanics including towing services, auto storage, etc.;
6.      Coin operated machines, including Laundromats, food vending machines, coffee suppliers, route driver;
7.      Internet based business, selling products or running a website;
8.      Distributor of products to stores such as batteries, food, parts, etc.;
9.      Cleaning service such as janitorial, minor night time maintenance for commercial facilities;
10.   Catering, weekend event service provider such as weddings, community events, charity events.

I’m going to do this one by one.

This entry is part of a series of entries exemplifying the steps an entrepreneur takes from starting a business to selling the operation. It is a step by step process addressing the multitude of business concepts every small business owner must face. This is a 6 year example from Day 1 to the day the owner receives a check for selling his business. Read this series as if it you were experiencing all of the trials, tribulations and joy of owning and operating a business.


I’m definitely qualified to do any of the sub skills involved in residential and light commercial construction. I cannot provide any HVAC, plumbing, or electrical due to licensing restrictions. Other limitations include sewage and well water which require licenses in our area. I could get one of those licenses but the real issue is my availability. Let me address each of the sub trades and their respective cons:

  • Roofer – I would have to hire guys to help me and I don’t want to do that, I’ll need insurance and I will have to deal with several guys on the job. I can handle the guys but it’s not my preference. It is not a high end skill required but the issue of managing other guys bothers me.
  • Siding – because it takes at least two guys to put up siding, I can’t go this route either do to hiring of guys and you need long stretches of time to get any volume of work done. Since I work during the day, very few contractors will hire me to provide this service
  • Concrete work – need extended periods of time to form and then lay concrete, requires staff
  • Cabinet work – interesting, can’t build them because I’m not into fine work like that, but could install them. Can work into the darkness with lights, so this is a possibility as an installer.
  • Painting – I hate the idea and the smell, worse yet you have to be able to get a lot of volume done in a short period of time, I’m not fond of the idea of working for 8 hours at night and then getting up and going to my regular job.
  • Sheet rocker – no, very physical in nature which I can handle but what happens when I turn 40? 50?
  • Tile Work – this looks interesting, because it is a multi-step function anyway, seems plausible, only requires one guy for the job and very little investment needed for tooling, let me put it on the list of potentials.
  • Insulation – no, too much scratching and I’m not in love with suiting up during the summertime.
  • Flooring – hmm…. Seems OK, but will the contractor give me enough latitude to get the flooring done over several days? I doubt he will and I’ll need some help to fulfill this job. 
  • Trim carpentry – I could learn the skills, but it takes a lot of hours to get all the trim installed in a house; I would also need a helper to do this.
  • Brick and or CMU Layer – no way, requires a lot of young guys to haul the weight and during the winter time, you have to have the mortar in place  before 2 in the afternoon giving it time to set before the temperature drops.  I can’t do this at night.

Based on all of my restrictions; the tile work and cabinet installer seem plausible. I’ll put these two items on my short list.

Landscaping/Arbor Work

Ok, one of my goals is to make $70 to $80 an hour from my small business. If I mow grass or do light landscaping work, I don’t see how I can compete against all those guys that do this on the side. Competition is keeping the price low for services. 

Arborist type work is a little different. Climbing trees and trimming them, or dealing with storm damage stuff is very physical and it is infrequent. After a storm there might be several days of hard work involved and then it slows to zero again. In addition, the risk associated with climbing trees isn’t worth it for my family.  So for this, I’ll pass.

Welding/Sheet Metal/Metal Fabrication

This appears interesting. I’m fine with doing this type of work, you get to use your head and it requires some tooling up plus the purchase of some specialized truck to haul the torch system and the welding gear. I like the idea, but can I make any real money doing this type of work. Most of the machine shops and or metal fabrication shops close up by 7PM and so that only leaves me with a small window to get things done during the week. Furthermore, during the fall/winter hours, daylight is going to be an issue. I like the idea but I think outside forces limit my opportunity to do a lot of work. I’m going to be limited in the volume I can achieve. However, I’m going to put this one on the short list of opportunities.

Marine Industry

Although this appeals to my sense of working with machines and my hands, it is expensive to get involved. I don’t want to be a diver because I’m not into the water environment. I’m not a fisherman so I would have to learn the industry terminology. My understanding is that anything marine is expensive, so I could charge a good amount for my services. But most customers are interested in dealing with their issues during normal business hours and not so much at night. I’ll knock out a good portion of my potential market just because of my available hours. In addition, the customer contact element might be tolerable, but it is pushing my limit. Given the expense involved to get in, the limited market, I’m going to say no.


I’m handy with the tools; know the difference between fuel injection and a carburetor, but I don’t have the garage space nor do I wish to rent a facility to do this type of work. I would need to permanently house a lift system etc. This would be on the short list if I were going to go into this full time.

How about something like a tow truck? This appears interesting, but I’m not in love with the idea of getting a 2 AM wake up call to tow someone. I’m going to say no to this too.

Coin Operated Machines

Well this appears to be a possibility. First thing is that I would have to purchase machines; if a laundromat, industrial level machines. Too risky for that particular option if you ask me; besides, I would have to rent some space, modify the space for a laundromat and so on. That will exceed my $40,000 budget. I do not want to borrow money for this venture. What about food vending?

This looks interesting, but most of the facilities to place a machine would require attendance during normal business hours.  I’m not available during the day.  In addition, I would lose some money if I don’t rotate the food.  Hauling sodas around doesn’t seem to appealing either.

Other vending opportunities include gaming, ATMs’, or the latest fad, wine vending machines. This looks interesting; all of these are located in spots where access is allowed beyond 7PM. The wine one looks interesting, but I really don’t want to deal with understanding wines nor breakage. I can imagine what a mess it is to clean up when one of those bottles busts. In addition, the government has taxation certificates that you have to follow. Gaming has the same licensing standard. I really don’t want to keep working with the government.  For some reason the government is only interested in their tax revenues and not the small businessman generating revenue. ATMs don’t require licensing or special reporting to the government. I think this will go on my short list.


The current wave in business for making money; it seems everybody has a website now. Although I’m technically savvy, this doesn’t seem appealing. Again, I would have to sell products, ship them and deal with customers. Even though the contact isn’t face to face, I really don’t want to fight with the little old lady or the teenager. I’m going to pass on this option.


Upon further thought, in order to cover the costs of the special cube truck, I would need to do this full time. This is not a good option. Also, for food items, I’m not too interested in getting up at 3 in the morning to go to work. I’ll pass.

Cleaning Service

Well this fits perfectly with my personality and my available times. I think this should be on the short list. Low investment into equipment and a large market where I live makes this worth further research.

Catering/Weekend Services

At first I was Ok with doing weekend work.  But upon further thought, I’m leaning away from this because I still enjoy my weekend time. I really want this to be more of a nighttime thing during the week and maybe a couple of hours on the weekend. Besides, with catering, I have to get approved and inspected by the local health department and this doesn’t sit well with me. In addition, you have to deal with the customer more in depth than I originally thought. I like the idea of doing the prep work on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and delivering on Saturday. But I can’t imagine dealing with customers for weddings or some kind of Saturday night celebration. I think this is a good option, but because of the Saturday duration for work, I’m going to pass on this. Besides, I really can’t see myself doing this in 7 years and missing my son’s Little League ballgame, best to set it to the side.

Alright, let’s see where I am for options:

  1.      Construction – tile work and cabinet installer
  2.      ATM machines
  3.      Janitorial Service

OK, I have now narrowed this down to the three options above. Now I can do some business research to see if any of these options can be eliminated off some basic knowledge. The next entry is about doing some preliminary research on each of the three options. Act on Knowledge. 

Entry #2 – Narrowing the Idea                                              Time Invested: 2.75 Hrs.                                                              Cumulative Time: 6.0 Hrs.

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